Amid the chorus of shrieking cats that is the transfer-mad English press is the lone, slightly sibilant voice of Michael Cox, plainly arguing his brief case against Mario Balotelli’s utility at Manchester City:
On paper, Balotelli might be more suited to a wide position. David Silva starts in one of the wide roles and inevitably drifts inside into the centre, and Nasri’s tendency to do something similar has been problematic on occasion, making City’s play too congested and allowing the opposition to defend narrow.
Balotelli offers directness and a goalscoring threat from wide, but in addition to his lack of defensive work, he simply never appears determined or motivated when fielded there. He’s a powerful runner with the ball, but his ability to beat a man is less assured.
Reading this, one remembers that Balotelli’s job does not primarily involve using public school urinals and being interviewed by Noel Gallagher, but scoring goals for a football club. It’s admittedly hard to tell, what with papers speculating over his team selection at City based not on tactical efficiency but rather on the success of his weekly spiritual counsel with Man City’s 22 year-old club chaplain, Reverend Peter Horlock.
It appears we’ve migrated pretty far from the idea that a player has a fairly static set of skills that can either be enhanced or undermined by good or bad management. Today, it’s purportedly far, far more complex. A forward must play in a specific part of the field (usually the middle, the precious, precious middle) or else they will be incapable of working their magic. They must have the exactly right assortment of team-mates versed in either horizontal or vertical styles of play to score goals. They must be in their right mind. They must be in the right city. They cannot be homesick. Their legs need constant care.
Andi Thomas touched on this subject today in his annoyingly brilliant way:
What should be the relatively simple business of transferring some paperwork in exchange for some promissory notes becomes a hellish entanglement of haggling with agents, representatives, hangers-on and passers-by. And what should be a relatively simple business of identifying a good player, and having him come and play well for you, is always, always, always a gamble.
Most footballers have an equivalent to Ba’s knee; it may not be as obvious to a medical, but they’re delicate creatures, and moving them to the wrong city or playing them in the wrong midfield can do just as much damage as an exploding kneecap.
The press, bless ‘em, seems only to be following the cues of both managers—keen to make excuses for the extended poor performance of an overpriced January acquisition—and players—Keen to do much the same, usually at the behest of their nervous, scummy agents.
Meanwhile, the idea that injuries may fall along an entirely random distribution from player to player, or that a good number players can adapt easily playing several metres to the left or right of their ‘comfort zone’, continues to evaporate into the mist.
2013 New year’s resolutions for Canadian soccer.
Mancini says pictures are misleading, plays down Balotelli incident.
Terry wants club to retire Lampard’s number, if he leaves this summer.
Newcastle sign French international Debuchy.
West Ham complete Joe Cole move from Liverpool.
Rooney likely won’t hit the field again for another two weeks.
Inter sign Lazio captain Rocchi.
Sevilla decline offers to sell Negredo.
Quick preview to this weekend’s La Liga action.
Bayern sign Mainz defender Kirchhoff.
Bit and Bobs
Michael Cox doesn’t predict Ba and Torres will form into an attacking duo.
Van der Vaart splits from wife.
Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.